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Pupil who overcame depression wants to re-enter Molloy

When Isabella Cortes left Archbishop Molloy High School after her father committed suicide last year, she said officials from the Briarwood school told the A-student she was guaranteed a spot whenever she wanted to return.

After taking the second semester off to deal with the depression she was diagnosed with following her father’s death, Isabella, 15, of Flushing, was looking forward to returning to Molloy, a school she wanted to go to because it “is the best Catholic school in the city.”

But when Molloy opens its doors to students in a couple weeks, Isabella is not sure she will be there.

Isabella and her mother, Luz Marina Cortes, also of Flushing, said despite promises from Molloy’s former president, John Sherry, who retired at the end of last year, that the school would be more than happy to save the student’s place, school officials have now told her she cannot return because of mental health problems.

“I really want to get back into school,” said Cortes, who received a 99.72 average in the school quarter immediately following her father’s death, which happened in August 2009. “School’s something that’s really important to me.”

Molloy’s new president, Richard Karsten, said he did not know about the matter but would look into it.

While school officials have cited Isabella’s mental health as the reason they do not want her to return to Molloy, Isabella’s psychologist and psychiatrist have written letters to the school saying the student is fit to return to an academic environment.

“Isabella has done extraordinarily well in therapy and is highly motivated to return to Archbishop Molloy High School,” Mary T. Kennedy, a licensed psychologist from Bayside, wrote in an Aug. 20 letter to the school. “Currently she is free from anxiety, fear and complicated grief over her father’s untimely death. It is my recommendation that Isabella be accepted for readmission.”

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) has also rallied on Isabella’s behalf and sent two letters to Molloy — one in July and another in August.

“I’m very disappointed that the administrators at Archbishop Molloy have not responded to my letters,” Stavisky said. “They should be nurturing this young lady, not just ignoring her. She’s obviously a gifted young lady. Her lowest grade was 92.”

An honors student, Isabella has done extremely well in school since she was little and has even landed financial sponsorship from a member of her church, St. Michael’s, who will pay for her tuition at Molloy until she graduates. After leaving Molloy after the first semester, she decided to work through her depression by spending time with her father’s family in Florida, where she temporarily attended school. She returned to Flushing in March and finished her freshman year through home instruction, for which she received a grade of 95 percent.

Ultimately, Isabella hopes to become a doctor.

But for now, Isabella is setting her sights on getting back into Molloy.

“Going to a Catholic school is important to me,” Isabella said. “Being there last year, it gave me hope. It helped me not only in the grieving process but being able to cope. It gave me ground to hold on to.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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